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Box Office

Roger Ebert Blames Theaters for Poor 2011 Box Office Showing

Hollywood box office numbers are down significantly from 2010. Movie attendance is at its lowest rate in 16 years. Piracy and file-sharing seems to be getting plenty of blame. But Roger Ebert isn’t buying it. Nor is he buying this Fishie’s contention that a glut of crap movies is at fault. On his blog, Ebert argues that while 2011 lacked an Avatar to boost box office numbers, the theater experience is to blame for Hollywood’s poor showing. Which is interesting, because the spate of 3-D movies that came out this year were supposed to be about improving the theater-going experience–providing something viewers couldn’t have at home.

But Ebert says 3-D ticket prices are gouging audiences. That, combined with concession gouging, and inconsiderate idiots with cell phones in the theaters are keeping people home. But all that could be overcome, Ebert argues, if theaters just took a chance on the American viewing audience and started screening decent films.

Writes Ebert:

Box-office tracking shows that the bright spot in 2011 was the performance of indie, foreign or documentary films. On many weekends, one or more of those titles captures first-place in per-screen average receipts. Yet most moviegoers outside large urban centers can’t find those titles in their local gigantiplex. Instead, all the shopping center compounds seem to be showing the same few overhyped disappointments. Those films open with big ad campaigns, play a couple of weeks, and disappear.

The myth that small-town moviegoers don’t like “art movies” is undercut by Netflix’s viewing results; the third most popular movie on Dec. 28 on Netflix was “Certified Copy,” by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. You’ve heard of him? In fourth place–French director Alain Corneau’s “Love Crime.” In fifth, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”–but the subtitled Swedish version.

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The Hangover III Might Be Set in Los Angeles

Are you ready for The Hangover III?

Actor Bradley Cooper told the BBC’s Graham Norton Show that their could be a third film on the way — which would take place in Los Angeles.

“I think that we adhered to the formula in the second one, for those who’ve seen it, and the third one, I think, which would close the whole trilogy,” said Cooper. “I think it’ll take place in Los Angeles and maybe not adhere to the structure. It might be different.”

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The Dark Knight Rises Prologue Coming to 32 IMAX Theaters

Starting on Dec. 16, The Dark Knight Rises prologue will debut in 42 U.S. and Canadian IMAX theaters prior to select screenings of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

The six-minute long prologue serves as an introduction to Bane, a villain played by Tom Hardy, and is the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises, which hits theaters on July 20, 2012.

The prologue will only be seen on IMAX theaters using true 70mm IMAX projection.

Below are the local IMAX theaters that will show the prologue:

Irvine Spectrum 21 + IMAX (Irvine)

The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center‎ -RAVE 18 + IMAX (Los Angeles)

Ontario Palace Stadium 22 + IMAX (Ontario)

CityWalk Stadium 19 with IMAX  (Universal City)

Happy Feet Two Flop Sends 600 Employees Packing

Due to the poor performance of Happy Feet Two at the box office, 600 of the 700 employees at Dr. D Studios are getting laid off in early-December, according to IF.com.au.

As of Nov. 25, the sequel to the Academy Award-winning Happy Feet has made an estimated $35.5 million. The estimated budget was a whopping $140 million.

The one positive is some of the 600 employees will receive job offers from a new company that Kennedy-Miller Mitchell Films is launching in 2012. The Australian film company launched Dr. D Studios as a joint deal with Omnilab Media.

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Laemmle Sunset 5 Theatre To Close

After nearly 20 years in business, the Laemmle Sunset 5 movie theatre is closing its doors. Once the city’s preferred destination for independent cinema, business has faded, and the Laemmle chain now deems it financially prudent to allocate resources elsewhere. From the press release:

A mainstay of the Los Angeles exhibition scene since its opening in 1992, the Sunset 5, was vitally important in launching a wave of new directors. Filmmakers such as Todd Haynes (SAFE), Lisa Cholodenko (HIGH ART), Doug Liman (SWINGERS), Catherine Hardwicke (THIRTEEN), Bryan Singer (THE USUAL SUSPECTS), Todd Solondz (WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE), and Bill Condon (GODS & MONSTERS) saw their films premiere to sell-out crowds at the Sunset.

This fishie recalls seeing a few of those movies at the Sunset 5, not to mention several awesome film festivals and events. It was more than a movie theater, it was a cultural destination, and it’s sad to see it go. It seems likely that the demise of the Sunset 5 was helped along by the closing of once thriving businesses in the same shopping complex, including the Virgin MegaStore and the Wolfgang Puck Cafe.

Subsequently on FishbowlLA:
Robert Redford Rides Into Laemmle’s Sunset 5

Universal Pictures Pulls Plug on Tower Heist VOD

Due to backlash from movie theater operators, Universal Pictures decided to squash plans to show Tower Heist on Comcast’s video on demand service.

“Universal Pictures today announced that in response to a request from theater owners, it has decided to delay its planned premium home video on demand (PVOD) experiment,” Universal said in a statement. “Universal continues to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD window are business models that can coincide and thrive and we look forward to working with our partners in exhibition to find a way to experiment in this area in the future.”

The original plan involved Comcast cable customers with a high-definition TV in Portland, Oregon and Atlanta paying $59.99 to watch Tower Heist from their home starting on Nov. 23. A number of theaters worried about losing customers were prepared to not show the Eddie Murphy-Ben Stiller comedy in protest.

In the end, the pressure was too much and Universal caved … for now.

You Can Watch First-Run Films at Home for $60

Universal Pictures and Comcast are testing out a new concept that will allow you to watch a movie that’s still in theaters from your living room couch.

The only catch?

It’s going to cost you $60.

Comcast cable customers with a high-definition TV in Portland, Oregon and Atlanta can test out the service starting Nov. 23 with Tower Heist, starring Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller. You have a 48-hour window to watch an unlimited number of times.

I can see this concept working for families. When you factor in the cost of parking, four tickets and food, $60 is a steal.

In the future, let’s hope the film selections are better than Tower Heist. You would have to pay me $60 to sit through that one.

On Conan the Barbarian Bombing

Conan the Barbarian did not have a great opening weekend at the box office. And by “not great” we mean it brought in  little more than $10 million and barely beat the fourth week of The Smurfs. It totally tanked. To add insult to injury, it’s also being sued.

Screenwriter Sean Hood, who helped doctor the Conan script (obviously not well enough), writes on Quora about what it’s like to pen a bomb. He likens the experience to losing–badly–in a political election.

By about 9 PM its clear when your “candidate” has lost by a startlingly wide margin, more than you or even the most pessimistic political observers could have predicted. With a movie its much the same: trade magazines like Variety and Hollywood Reporter call the weekend winners and losers based on projections. That’s when the reality of the loss sinks in, and you don’t sleep the rest of the night.

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Michael Moore Sues Weinstein Brothers For 2.7 Million Bucks of ‘Fahrenheit 9/11′ Cash

Wow. Michael Moore has filed suit against film moguls Harvey and Bob Weinstein, alleging that the brothers used “bogus accounting methods” to hide huge sums of money the filmmaker was due from his film Fahrenheit 9/11. TMZ got a hold of the suit, which was filed today in LA Superior Court. Among Moore’s juicier charges: one Weinstein brother secretively took a private jet to Europe on Moore’s dime.

Moore is asking for $2.7 million.

Fahrenheit 9/11 is the top grossing documentary of all-time, earning a whopping $220 million-plus at the box office.

Paramount Continues to Tap Fort Knoxville

In what has to be deemed a very clever move, Paramount Pictures shot enough footage while making Jackass 3D to then use either as DVD Extra material if the film did moderately well or as a stand-alone separate product if the film did really well.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock tumbled onto you by a slack-jeans wearing daredevil, you know that Jackass 3D was a monster profit-margin hit. And so, in March 2011, Paramount will follow with digital sequel Jackass 3.5. For some, these digits are where the film will rank, at best, on the critical rating scale of one to 10. But for the folks at Paramount, there is no doubt about the standing of Johnny Knoxville (pictured) and co.

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